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DBAs and the Career-Life Balance Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 11:38 AM
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As I thought about goals / resolutions this year, I had to get realistic about how much I want to accomplish as a SQL professional vs. how much I want to accomplish as a father, husband, and church member. We are homeschooling our kids, and our church is doing some amazing projects like building a free health clinic for people without insurance, etc.

As a SQL professional, I would love this year to get certified, give 3 presentations, start a regular blog, and go to PASS Summit. But with 4 kids at home, two of whom are still quite little, and a wife whom I vowed to be there for as a true life companion and not just a walking paycheck, not to mention side project commitments, those targets aren't realistic right now. Instead certification is out of the question this year, 1 or 2 presentations is probably the max, and SQL Rally will be a great trip, targeted exactly to people like me that can't make the Summit.

So I think setting realistic targets is important. I haven't been especially good at this in the past, and instead have just tried to "do everything that interested me". This is a great attitude when you're young, capable, and don't have other commitments. But as your responsibilities grow, you need to sit down, think about it, and make the hard choices about "what to leave in, what to leave out".

For a little more encouragement on giving family the priority it deserves, I highly recommend http://familymanweb.com/ . Now his slant is often "family is everything, every time", and as DBA's sometimes the job does come first. That's the job, don't feel guilty about it. But if you have a family, please resist that urge to make "career" the God of your life.

As far as other things that have worked for me, I've actually changed jobs quite a bit until 1) I figured out what I wanted and 2) I found a company that was sane. Working for a sane company goes a long way toward making work/life balance possible. If your current job is wrecking your home, start looking around. There are good companies out there, even if they are the minority.
Post #1236773
Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 8:04 PM
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The pastor who performed my marriage and counseled my wife and I before the blessed event gave me this wise advice...Put family events (i.e. commitments) in your planner along with your business appointments. When people ask you to do something when you already have a family commitment tell them "no" just like you would with a business conflict. 99% of the times another time will work out. I do occasionally get some strange looks from young, single, career-obsessed colleagues, but they usually work around my prior commitments without any complaints. As has been mentioned already, it's always instructive to ask yourself what will matter to you in 10 years. I have never answered that question on the side of work.
Post #1236957
Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 9:33 PM


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It all boils down to priorities and developing your daily disciplines. I blogged about investing in your personal growth and how it comes at a price. In organizations where you are expected to work on company time and learn on your own time, this is really a challenge (I am not in favor of such practices but you have to live with it). But this is the cost of growth. The question is not whether or not we want to grow but whether or not we are willing to pay the price.

Work-Life balance is a concept that the 20th century work environment has developed to create a separation between work and play. The reason why it is advocated by many is because they are stuck in a work environment - or even in a job - where they'd rather be someplace else. If we look at history, technology is "partly" to blame for this phenomenon. And, then, there's the 8-hour work day and the 40-hour work week. In effect, there really is no such thing as balance since we spend most of our time at work. So, how do we deal with it? Try P.D.A.

1) Prioritize. List down the top 5 items that mean a lot to you. If you spend more than enough time at work than with your family, it simply means it is higher up the priority list.

2) Discipline. Once we've defined our priorities, we need to develop our daily disciplines to support our priorities. One example, in my case, is making sure that I walk my kids to the school bus stop every morning no matter what. It also means having lunch date with my wife every Friday. Because they are on my priority list. I also account for the time I spend meditating and praying in the morning, reading before going to bed and taking walks when the weather permits.

3) Accept. We need to learn more about ourselves - our strengths and weaknesses - and accept the facts. We need to accept the fact that we cannot do everything. This means being secured in who we are. It gives us the courage to say no to our boss when we know our priorities and daily disciplines will be affected. I've accepted the fact that I know nothing about BizTalk nor don't have any clue at all what the Mercator's map is all about. I can't even read my own handwriting sometimes and will probably not be playwright ever. But I'm fine with that.

As technology professionals, we have succumbed to the pressure of what the industry requires of us that we let it define who we are. We need to take a step back, take charge and be different. Then, we can begin to really see what work-life balance truly means.


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Post #1236974
Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 11:00 PM
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I find all these comments interesting. When I started in IT many years ago I was so engrossed in learning about this new field I neglected everything that was happening around me. It took years to make me realize that I was taken by the maze that is created in this NeverWorld. We solve real world problems if we are good at our jobs. Instead of being consumed by what should be, focus on giving the best service you can to the people that are depending on you. If you really do this you will be forced to find the best way to give them the newest and best way to do their work. You will not have a problem getting the training you desire. It will be part of your duty. This will not happen accidently. It will take place only when you have fortitude to demand that you do your job! While you are doing this you will have plenty of time to spend with your family and friends. Life is a balance but the priority MUST BE WITH YOUR FAMILY. Time will change everything but you never get to recover the time you lose with those you love.
Post #1236989
Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 7:46 AM


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I once was interviewed by Citrix and the Cambodian that interviewed me told me "We work hard, but we play hard too." Which my immediate response was "What exactly does that mean?" I guess no one ever challenged him on it before because he was just flabbergasted and did not even have an answer. Sometimes it makes you stop and wonder whether people are just dreaming up cute snappy sounding stuff just to say.

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
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Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:01 AM


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TravisDBA (1/17/2012)
I once was interviewed by Citrix and the Cambodian that interviewed me told me "We work hard, but we play hard too." Which my response was "What exactly does that mean?" I guess no one ever challenged him on it before because he was just flabbergasted and did not even have an answer.


"We take the team out for drinks on a friday night and go-carting some Saturdays. No, you can't decline and spend time with your family. What kind of a team player are you?"



Gail Shaw
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Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:07 AM


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GilaMonster (1/17/2012)
TravisDBA (1/17/2012)
I once was interviewed by Citrix and the Cambodian that interviewed me told me "We work hard, but we play hard too." Which my response was "What exactly does that mean?" I guess no one ever challenged him on it before because he was just flabbergasted and did not even have an answer.


"We take the team out for drinks on a friday night and go-carting some Saturdays. No, you can't decline and spend time with your family. What kind of a team player are you?"


So what are you are really saying? That "playing hard" involves drinking and if I don't go out with you on a Friday night that I am not a team player?


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
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Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:16 AM


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TravisDBA (1/17/2012)
GilaMonster (1/17/2012)
TravisDBA (1/17/2012)
I once was interviewed by Citrix and the Cambodian that interviewed me told me "We work hard, but we play hard too." Which my response was "What exactly does that mean?" I guess no one ever challenged him on it before because he was just flabbergasted and did not even have an answer.


"We take the team out for drinks on a friday night and go-carting some Saturdays. No, you can't decline and spend time with your family. What kind of a team player are you?"


So what are you are really saying? That "playing hard" involves drinking and if I don't go out with you on a Friday night that I am not a team player?


I'm not, but I've met some managers who did.

My comment was a guess as to what that phrase could have meant (and what I've seen it interpreted as at some places)



Gail Shaw
Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008, MVP
SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

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Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:27 AM


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GilaMonster (1/17/2012)
TravisDBA (1/17/2012)
GilaMonster (1/17/2012)
TravisDBA (1/17/2012)
I once was interviewed by Citrix and the Cambodian that interviewed me told me "We work hard, but we play hard too." Which my response was "What exactly does that mean?" I guess no one ever challenged him on it before because he was just flabbergasted and did not even have an answer.


"We take the team out for drinks on a friday night and go-carting some Saturdays. No, you can't decline and spend time with your family. What kind of a team player are you?"


So what are you are really saying? That "playing hard" involves drinking and if I don't go out with you on a Friday night that I am not a team player?


I'm not, but I've met some managers who did.

My comment was a guess as to what that phrase could have meant (and what I've seen it interpreted as at some places)


Maybe, and if that was the case, maybe that is why he didn't answer the return question, because he probably quickly realized he should not be saying stuff like that in a interview in the first place.


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1237264
Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:05 AM
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FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCES:

As a Jr SQL dev, I've have always tried to abide by one rule: there is a median between Work and Home, and I will always stay in it. So far, for the last 3 years, this has been true (I have a 2 yr old, greatest part of life).

When 5pm hits, its home time. But, from 8am-5pm, its SQL, all day, everyday.

Even when surfing SQLServerCentral & SQL blogging, it should be a part of your breaks, lunch, and maybe 30 mins to 60 mins of work time, not home time. I know not all businesses/managers see it this way, but my experience so far with various ones, allows for these type of learning situations.

I think when it comes to us SQL folks, we get split into two groups: Technical and Analysts

The technical guys I see are usually those that can answer any question SQL server related, but are also the guys that work the longest, and have turned this into their hobby and home time.

The analysts guys I see typically have been those who know the technical portion of their job well enough, but also grasp other portions of the business, with much thinking towards other technologies and methodologies. These guys, for what it is, make greater use of their 8-5 (because they have too with their brain-gerbils running at full speed), leaving at 5 to join the family and enjoy life. I've met more managers looking for the family guy and team player who knows enough, then the nutzoid SQL-geek.

Its all in what you want out of life, but I must say to the other young junior devs out there: If you want to enjoy life with family and friends, avoid getting into the habit of being SQL obsessed 24/7 now. Maximize your 8-5, because when you hit 35 and your kid is 7 and you dont remember much from 1-6, you can't get that time back.

Again, all of this is from personal experiences. I understand everyone is different.

Stephen
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